One of the highlights of the summer festival at Daylesford organic farm was the talk given by Satish Kumar in one of the barns on the estate. It was scheduled for just half an hour, but needless to say, his many followers and readers of his work asked question after question, and the time overran.
Satish Kumar is one of the world’s leading voices in ecology, the environment, holistic education and voluntary simplicity. As a child he became a monk, and later travelled long pilgrimages, on foot, campaigning for peace and land reforms. He lives in Hartland in Devon with his wife and son, and is the editor of Resurgence magazine, which brings together the three symbiotic topics of earth, art and spirit. He is also the director of Schumacher College and The Small School.
Forty five years ago, when Resurgence was founded, looking after the environment, respect for mother nature and the rebuttal of mass-consumerism for a simpler quality of life were issues very far away from mainstream collective consciousness and media coverage. How times have changed, and now Resurgence is read by many thousands of like-minded people all over the world, an invaluable resource and forum for making sense of man’s place in the food chain.
Here is the magazine described by the environmental writer David Nicholson Lord:
“Resurgence is, it’s thought, the longest-running environmental magazine in Britain. Its survival so long, without millionaire backing and without turning itself into a consumer lifestyle accessory, with the advertising to match, tells a compelling story – not only of conviction, commitment and endurance but of need, role and relevance. It was founded in 1966 by John Papworth, a well-known peace campaigner with connections to the Committee of 100 and the Peace Pledge Union, but rapidly broadened its critique from the nuclear nightmare generated by the Cold War to pollution, intensive farming and food production and the related political problems of centralisation, bigness and the growing separation of economics from ethics.”
Anyone who cares about food simultaneously cares about sustainability, the planet and the natural world. We are all worried about the myriad of problems facing our generation and that of our children: food security, the depletion of natural resources, global warming and the increasingly consumer-led imperatives of the tiger economies of China and India.
Satish began by saying that despite all our worries, any movements led by fear are not sustainable. If we wish to change our fear into peace of mind then all consumers need to make life changing decisions about the way they live, work and interact with one another.
He quoted his friend, Lady Eve Balfour who set up the Soil Association, with the belief that as long as you look after the soil, revere it and nurture it, your garden will flourish and grow. The reverence of nature and the understanding of man’s place beneath it are essential if we are to be truly cognisant of and grateful for nature’s harvest.
Making compost is one of the simplest yet most important acts of reverence. All life should be given back to life, and the soil nurtured to produce more life. By throwing food waste into landfill we are failing to comply with the most basic and fundamental ecological need for all living matter to decompose and feed new matter.
He also quoted Hippocrates: “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food”. The concept of soil and soul are integrated. By showing a greater gratitude for the importance of the soil and all the creatures that live within it we begin to change our outlook on our own place on this earth. We should begin to nurture our own soul, taking time to quietly contemplate and meditate on our own lives and to pursue music, art, craft and creative activities..
All human life is interconnected and personal and group relationships are extremely important if we are to safeguard the wellbeing of our society. Satish has long called for a new work structure, whereby humans dedicate half of their life to working, to earn money, and the rest to creativity, art, music, craft or dance. We must pursue daily activities that bring us back to our families and our closer communities.
His rallying cry is for change at grass root level. If we want local shops, local farms, local food and local communities we need to raise our voices in support of these initiatives and make them happen. Corporations and governments are not going to make these changes on our behalf, as it is in their interest for global companies to rule our wallets and our minds. Personal and social transformation go hand in hand, and quoting Mahatma Gandhi he told us “Be the change that you want to see in the world”.
If we no longer buy Coca Cola drinks and McDonalds burgers or take out loans from big banks, these giant conglomerates would cease to exist. If we want an alternative food system we need to revert to nature and lead simpler lives. By consuming less and appreciating more the quality of good, better food then we can begin the grass root movement of localised and co-operative control, shifting food creation and distribution paradigms away from centralised, multinational food systems.
He explained how at his home in Devon all the water from his roof is transferred into a tank, and this is then pumped out, when he needs it, to grow his vegetables. If all homeowners carried out this simple task, entire villages could save hundreds of gallons of precious water every year. By living closer to nature, renouncing waste and over-consumption and creating a community of like-minded individuals he has created his own template for a more sustainable life, where soil, soul and society come together.
To read more about Satish Kumar’s work, the following two websites will be of interest:
Resurgence magazine: www.resurgence.org.uk You can also follow on Twitter: @Resurgence
Schumacher College: www.schumachercollege.org.uk